Qantas is trying to block the publication of Alan Joyce's speechwriter's book about the 2011 fleet grounding

Qantas. Photo: Getty Images

A senior Qantas employee, speechwriter Lucinda Holdforth, is fighting the airline in court for the right to publish a book laying bare the details of the October 2011 decision by her boss, CEO Alan Joyce, to ground the entire fleets.

The Australian reports that Qantas applied for an injunction against the book, provisionally titled Fighting Words, in the NSW Supreme Court, on the basis that it contains confidential information that would damage the airline.

Holdforth has worked for Qantas since 2008, writing speeches for Joyce, including his 2011 post-grounding address, as well as former boss Geoff Dixon and past chairwoman Margaret Jackson. She contacted the CEO and corporate affairs manager, Olivia Wirth, in March this year by email, seeking their approval to publish her memoir of that controversial time in the airline’s history.

Qantas put the cost of the grounding at $194 million, but it ended a long-running industrial dispute with pilots, ground staff and engineers.

The Australian says the email described her manuscript as “fundamentally a study of your leadership Alan, and of Olivia’s exhilarating command of the communications strategy during one of Australia’s biggest corporate crises.”

On Tuesday, Qantas applied for an urgent interim injunction to stop publication. A further hearing is scheduled for this afternoon following time to see if the two sides can find a resolution.

The airline is arguing that Holdforth is obliged to not reveal confidential company information disclosed during discussions among senior staff.

“She has written a manuscript seeking to exploit for personal gain confidential internal information that she was privy to,” the airline said in a statement.

“Qantas had no option but to take action to prevent Ms Holdforth from breaching her obligations.”

The rift if likely to see an end to the speechwriter’s time at the airline, with a Qantas spokesperson telling the ABC that Holdforth had been sent a letter declaring there was a “breakdown in trust in the relationship”.

There’s more on the case here.

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